John Hope Franklin, 1915-2009

Jhf The great historian of the African-American experience has passed away. In Duke News:

The grandson of a slave, Franklin’s work was informed by his first-hand experience with injustices of racism — not just in Rentiesville, Okla., the small black community where he was born on Jan. 2, 1915, but throughout his life.

Named after John Hope, the former president of Atlanta University, Franklin was the son of Buck Colbert Franklin, one of the first black lawyers in the Oklahoma Indian territory, and Mollie Parker Franklin, a schoolteacher and community leader.

The realities of racism hit Franklin at an early age. He has said he vividly remembers the humiliating experience of being put off the train with his mother because she refused to move to a segregated compartment for a six-mile trip to the next town. He was 6. Later, although an academic star at Booker T. Washington High School and valedictorian of his class, the state would not allow him to study at the state university because he was black.

So instead of the University of Oklahoma, in 1931 Franklin enrolled at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tenn., intending to study law.

However, a white history professor, Theodore Currier, caused him to change his mind and he received his bachelor’s degree in history in 1935. Currier became a close friend and mentor and when Franklin’s money ran out, Currier loaned the young student $500 to attend graduate school at Harvard University, where he received his master’s in 1936 and doctorate five years later.

[H/t: Linta Varghese]